October 15, 2016 – January 2, 2017


“Perception”, eL Seed’s 50-building graffiti project in Cairo, Egypt.

Matter: Tacoma made modern is pleased to present the work of internationally acclaimed artist and TED Fellow, eL Seed; and Parisian graffiti artist, Jean Faucheur.

The French-Tunisian artist, eL Seed, has developed a signature form of painting that combines the fluid lines of Arabic calligraphy with the street dynamism of Western graffiti in a style he calls, “calligraffiti”. With originality and vibrancy, eL Seed has created messages of peace on streets and buildings in the capitols of Europe, the US, the Middle East, and around the world. His artwork, which came to international attention after the birth of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, holds a universal call for peace and goodwill, as well as specific relevance for the places and cultures in which it appears.


eL Seed mural at the Arab World Institute, Paris

“I think that Arabic script touches your soul before it reaches your eyes,” he told an interviewer at TED. “There is a beauty in in that you don’t need to translate. Arabic script speaks to anyone, I believe….and then when you get the meaning you feel connected to it.” Drawing quotes from sources as diverse as Nelson Mandela, Algerian songwriter Dahmane El Harrach, Honoré de Balzac, as well as his own writings, eL Seed creates visually enthralling works whose bold colors, swoops and lyrical curves draw viewers into a mind-opening contemplation of beauty that transcends barriers of language, geography, politics and aesthetic critique.


eL Seed at work.

eL Seed’s most recent project, Perception, in Cairo, Egypt, encompasses a cubistic arrangement of 50 buildings in Manshiyat Naser, a Coptic Christian community known as the neighborhood of the garbage collectors. “[They] have been collecting the garbage of Cairo and sorting it in their own neighborhood for decades,” said eL Seed. “They have developed one of the most efficient and highly profitable systems on a global level. Still, the place is perceived as dirty, marginalized and segregated because of their association with the trash.” After a year of planning, and with a team from France, North Africa, the Middle East and the US, he created an astonishing work that can be seen in its entirely from only one vantage point, on a nearby mountainside. The words he chose were from St. Athanasius of Alexandria, a 3rd-century Coptic bishop: “Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly must wipe his eyes first.”

* * * * *


Jean Faucheur: moving art from museum walls onto the street.

Jean Faucheur is a well-known French artist who was hijacking Parisian billboards with aerosol paint in the 1980s, at the same time Keith Haring was using subways as a canvas in New York City. In fact, the two eventually made art together when Faucheur did a lengthy stint in NYC, eventually showing his work at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery.

Faucheur received a classical art education in Paris, but, finding gallery walls too restrictive for his ideas, took his work to the streets where it gained instant notoriety. His graffiti murals are painterly, masterfully executed, and (dare one say it), beautiful. He has recast historical works such as Dejeuner sur l’herbe in heavy drips of color that deconstruct traditional assumptions about the canon. Today, Faucheur has an art center in the center of Paris and a studio in Belleville, near where the Bataclan terrorist attack took place last November (you can read my interview with him about it at

Jean Faucheur and eL Seed have generously granted permission for Matter to share their artwork , via photographs, with the people of Tacoma. A portion of the proceeds from this show will support the humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders.

This exhibit is part one of Art Without Borders, a special 3-part series about the connection between art, freedom of expression, and universal human rights that will take place at Matter in 2016-2017. More coming soon! Matter: Tacoma made modern is located at 821 Pacific Ave. in Tacoma. Open Saturdays noon-6 and by appointment; we will be open 6-8pm on Third Thursday, November 17. Questions about the show? Call 253/961-5220.

-Lisa Kinoshita, Curator

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